As a local home improvement business specialising in windows and doors, the lockdown has opened up a whole new market for Elmhurst. “As I was speaking to customers, it was clear many simply didn’t have the space to cater to the new normal,” says MD, Richard Abrahams. “One would be working in the lounge, one in the kitchen, while the kids were running around making a racket. Keen to find a haven of distraction-free homeworking, or a soundproof playroom to offload the kids for a few hours, the demand for breathing space was clear.”
While Elmhurst has long been offering conservatories, the unique draw of a garden room is complete detachment from the home – and not only physically: “One customer who recently invested in a garden studio went from sitting in his pyjamas at the kitchen table to dressing up in a suit to go to work in his garden. It may sound ridiculous, but psychologists have written widely about the mental benefits of separating your home and working environments, even if they’re only a few metres apart.”
For those unable to head into their offices, or blow off some steam at gyms and pubs, garden rooms have proved a welcome sanctuary. However, Richard is quick to distinguish between a garden room, as opposed to a summer house, or as he so candidly puts it, “a glorified shed”: “A true garden room will have a steel frame, a solid anchored base, a fully insulated roof, flooring, electrics and heating, giving the customer a fully-functional standalone room, they can enjoy comfortably even in the harshest winter months.
“If people want a summerhouse, as they call them, they could probably pay a lot less, but they’re not going to get an insulated environment, with the quality of materials and finer interior details like retractable multipoint sockets or overhangs with soffit lighting.”
The amount of work that goes into the construction of a garden room is often more complex than a conservatory and this is reflected in the price tag: “Prices range from £15,000 to £30,000, putting it on a par with a loft conversion or basic single-storey extension. It’s not a low-cost job, but the benefits are tangible, not only for improving familial relations but in the added value to your home when you come to sell up.”
The majority of garden rooms are classed as outbuildings and so don’t require planning permission, falling within permitted development guidelines as long as they don’t have a veranda or include sleeping accommodation. Richard has seen another market for garden rooms emerging, with the proliferation of mobile hairdressers and beauty practitioners, who require a semi-permanent studio separate from the family home – though such business uses will require planning permission.
But whether you’re looking for a spin studio, fully stocked bar, or a playroom for the kids, the modular systems available offer plenty of customisable potential: “We’ve yet to have anyone enquire about a swimming pool, but the sky really is the limit. The versatility of the steel construction lets you do things prefabs can’t, offering all kinds of opportunities for personalisation with your choice of flooring, windows and décor. Whether you want bifold or patio doors, rustic cedar cladding or modern brushed aluminium, the choice is yours. It’s high-tech stuff, but you can look at it like a Meccano set – the architects can very quickly amend the CAD drawings to design a space to suit.”
Richard has witnessed this new string to the Elmhurst bow truly take off, with a surge of recent uptake: “We’ve had a flood of enquiries, with the diary filling up nicely. Much of the time, it’s when someone sees a friend’s job, and suddenly wants to do the same. As we head towards the summer, we’re expecting the orders to come thick and fast.”
With outdoor gatherings soon back on the cards, and professional UK households saving record sums, things are shaping up to be rosy in the garden: “Outdoor purchases are up 300%, and thousands of pounds have been saved on missed holidays, cancelled gym memberships and eating out, and after a long winter, families have never been more eager to invest their hard-earned cash into making the most of their outdoor spaces.”
Did you know? Buy now, pay in 2022 with Elmhurst Windows! Click HERE for more details.